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EU Tackles Tax Evasion

posted 12 Apr 2013, 15:41 by Mpelembe Admin   [ updated 12 Apr 2013, 15:42 ]

The European Union tackles tax evasion, underlining the need to combat an issue that causes up to 1 trillion euros of lost income in the EU each year.

 DUBLINIRELAND (APRIL 12, 2013) (POOL) -  The European Union on Friday (April 12) said it was determined to tackle tax evasion, underlining the need to combat an issue that causes up to 1 trilion euros of lost income in the EU each year.

"Nobody can deny that bank secrecy's outdated and that we need an efficient system to tackle evasion strategies. Political will was strong in France and we are more resolute than ever. My fellow ministers also have for a long time, this same determination. But we found isolated actions from each one of us would be of no use. This is why we turn together to the European Union to build on the current momentum," said French finance minister Pierre Moscovici during a news conference at the two-day informal talks in Dublin.

In a statement, Herman Van Rompuy, the president of the European Council and chairman of the EU leaders meetings, said the haemorrhage of tax revenues is equivalent to the entire annual economic output of Spain, and far exceeds the total of about 400 billion euros committed to the bailouts of euro zone member statesGreeceIrelandPortugal and Cyprus.

British Chancellor George Osborne said the EU was sending a strong message.

"Our message to those who are trying to evade their taxes is that the places you can hide are getting smaller and smaller, and fewer and fewer, and we are absolutely determined that people make their fair contribution to the society and that's what this agreement will help to bring about," Osborne said.

These statements, along with Van Rompuy's message, and the addition of the issue to the agenda of the summit in Brussels on May 22, will add to pressure onAustria to conform with the rest of the EU on sharing information about bank depositors.

Austria is the only one of the EU's 27 member states unwilling to sign up to EU rules on the automatic exchange of depositor data, with the finance minister intent on protecting Austria's long history of banking secrecy.

EU policymakers say having all EU countries signed up to the EU savings directive, the piece of legislation that calls for sharing of depositor data, will help to combat tax evasion.

Luxembourg, which has the biggest banking sector in the EU relative to its gross domestic product, announced this week it was willing to sign up to the directive from January 2015, leaving Austria as the only EU stand-out.

Moscovici said the EU move was not just aimed at Austria.

"Our move is dedicated to all countries in the European Union, of course includingAustria. But our true conviction is that there is a movement now, and this movement won't stop, this movement can't stop and that when the six major countries in Europe move together, it creates a strong signal to which nobody can resist. But we also convinced that if necessary, we will have to implement this fast and this is our conviction. So no, we don't have an intention dedicated to one country, but the message for all countries, for all people, all around Europe," he said.

Luxembourg, which has the biggest banking sector in the EU relative to its gross domestic product, announced this week it was willing to sign up to the directive from January 2015, leaving Austria as the only EU stand-out.

The shifting tide has raised alarm in Switzerland, the world's biggest offshore banking centre with 2 trillion U.S. dollars in assets, as well as in neighbouringLiechtenstein.

The Swiss Bankers Association said on Wednesday it did not see automatic exchange of information as an option for Switzerland because it is not part of the EU, noting there is currently no EU mandate for negotiations on the subject.

Liechtenstein Prime Minister Adrian Hasler told Swiss television on Thursday (April 11) his country was well aware of mounting pressure over the issue. "The financial centre knows that at some point it may go in this direction now that there is a certain momentum in the question," he said.

Van Rompuy said around one trillion euros was being lost across the EU each year because of tax evasion and avoidance.

With taxpayers providing the backstop for the 500 billion euro rescue fund the euro zone has created to tackle the debt crisis, ensuring that tax revenue does not leak out of the system through evasion is all the more pressing.


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